Football

Upset about game plan, lack of adjustments, playing time, some Dolphins players want out

In the hours immediately following Sunday’s 59-10 season-opening loss to the Baltimore Ravens, at least three Miami Dolphins players spoke with their agents, and on some level discussed wanting to go to another team — if what they saw what happened in the game and during preparation leading to it continues, according to league sources familiar with the conversations.

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A fourth player discussed with family members how badly the team performed and jokingly spoke of avoiding another such episode — either by requesting his release or perhaps by retiring. This player, however, was merely engaging in a form of gallows humor following the blowout loss.

All this is consistent with an early Sunday evening report from ProFootballTalk.com that said “multiple” Dolphins players contacted their agents after the loss and “directed them to attempt to engineer trades elsewhere.”

Per that report: “The players believe that the coaching staff, despite claiming that they intend to try to win, aren’t serious about competing and winning and by all appearances have bought into the notion that the Dolphins will take their lumps now in the hopes of laying a foundation via high draft picks for building a successful team later.”

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On Monday, Dolphins coach Brian Flores was asked about ProFootballTalk’s report and said he knows of no trade requests being made.

“I can’t really speak to the accuracy of that one,” Flores said. “We haven’t received any information like that. I think for us, we just need to focus on what’s going on inside of our building, and not worry about anything that’s going on outside.

“I think we have to get better from a fundamental standpoint, from a communication standpoint — really overall. That’s the goal right now. Everything else that’s going on outside, we just need to focus on what’s going on in our building.”

The problem, however, is located within the Dolphins’ building and indeed partly among the coaching staff itself, according to a source.

One problem that frustrated a couple of the players who spoke with their agent after the game is they didn’t trust the defensive game plan by the second quarter because it was obviously based off a poor assumption:

That assumption was that the Miami defense would face a downhill-running offense led by a quarterback who was looking to run first and unlikely to have enough skill or patience to throw deep.

In other words, a source said, Dolphins coaches doubted Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson could do what he did much of the day, which was not only to complete 17 of 20 passes (85 percent completion percentage) but actually throw deep successfully.

Jackson completed a pass of 83 yards to Marquise “Hollywood” Brown for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Jackson completed a pass of 47 yards to Brown for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Jackson completed a pass of 33 yards to Willie Snead for a touchdown in the third quarter.

And on all those plays the Dolphins had no deep safety help for the defensive backs — Minkah Fitzpatrick, Eric Rowe, and Jomal Wiltz — responsible for covering the receivers.

The 47-yard touchdown against Rowe was actually just a slant. But when Rowe was unable to make a play on the ball or the tackle, Brown had a clear path to the end zone because there was no free safety in the middle of the field.

Dolphins coaches stubbornly continued to provide no deep safety help, and the only time it worked was once when Xavien Howard broke up what would have been yet another long touchdown pass through the heart of the Miami secondary. But, again, Howard had no deep safety help on the play, just as his teammates had been given no such help on other plays.

And why does this matter?

Because players recognized that the coaching staff got it wrong in not expecting Jackson to connect on the deep passes. And when proof that Jackson could do it became clear to all of them, there were still no quick and lasting adjustments made to protect the deep center of the field.

So Jackson continued to find the deep middle of the Miami secondary too often unprotected well into the third quarter.

Beyond that complaint, at least one player relayed frustration to his agent about playing time. And it wasn’t so much that he was upset about the number of plays he got, but rather, because he believes himself a better player than the one coaches replaced him with.

The sources speaking here see all of this as a failure of the coaching staff. They understand the Miami roster is not deep or great. But they believe if the players involved were put in a better position and if adjustments were made quickly, the players could succeed.

Flores was not asked specifically about these issues Monday. But he did concede the coaching staff and players have to do better.

“Obviously I didn’t do a good enough job of getting this team prepared to play,” Flores said. “There were definitely some things we could do better as a team in all three phases. We’ll be better. We’ll get better.

“[There are] a lot of corrections from that game and hopefully we can be better this week than we were last week. That’s the goal. That’s going to be the goal every week. I think the players understand that and I think they’ll work towards that.”

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